Methylfolate: Maximizing Intake for Optimal Health through Diet and Supplements
Every day, your brain and body require an enormous range of vitamins and minerals in order to function properly. Good nutrition is vital for maintaining health and wellbeing throughout life.
One of the most important nutrients for daily function is folate, also known as vitamin B9. Among its many roles in supporting energy production and cognitive function, folate is best known for helping to create the building blocks of DNA (the genetic material that carries our traits) and assisting in the repair of damaged DNA. For these processes to happen as they should, folate needs to be in its active form - methylfolate.
In this article, we will discuss the role of folate and its dietary sources, methylfolate benefits, and how incorporating methylfolate supplements can support your body’s needs. We will also explain the methylfolate vs folic acid debate.
Understanding folate and methylfolate
Let's begin by understanding the significance of folate and the benefits of methylfolate (the active form of folate).
As we’ve explained, folate plays an essential role in DNA biosynthesis. To do this, the body must first convert folate into tetrahydrofolic acid (THFA). THF then undergoes several transfers (known as methylation reactions) that are necessary for creating DNA and RNA. These reactions are also required for the proper maturation of red blood cells (RBCs). 
Folate is one of the key cofactors in methylation, the process of adding a methyl group to certain molecules. Methylation influences gene expression, DNA repair, detoxification, and many other essential biochemical reactions.
Folate is crucial for cell division and growth. This makes it especially important during periods of rapid growth, such as in pregnancy and childhood.  It is also necessary for the production of red blood cells (erythrocytes), which carry oxygen throughout the body. Folate is required for the formation of heme: the iron-containing portion of the hemoglobin in red blood cells. Deficiency in folate can impair the maturation of young red blood cells, which can result in anemia. 
Homocysteine metabolism is another major function of folate. Homocysteine is a potentially harmful amino acid that is formed naturally in the body. It must be converted to methionine, a beneficial amino acid. Excess levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Folate is involved in regulating homocysteine levels and maintaining cardiovascular health. 
Folate is also required for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals play crucial roles in mood regulation, cognitive function, and overall mental well-being.
It’s for these reasons that a folate deficiency can have severe consequences for the mind and body. However, deficiency is very common, especially in women. Recent estimates show that 18.6% of women  may be low in folate, and that deficiency complicates between 1-4% of pregnancies in the US and one-third of pregnancies worldwide. 
Methylfolate (also known as L-methylfolate) is a bioactive form of folate that can be taken as a supplement. Unlike folic acid or dietary folate, methylfolate doesn’t have to undergo any enzymatic conversions in the body before it can be absorbed. Methylfolate bypasses these conversion steps, allowing for direct uptake in the body. This makes methylfolate a more readily available and effective form of folate, particularly for individuals at risk of methylfolate deficiency due to poor diet or health conditions that impair the folic acid/folate conversion process.
Dietary sources of methylfolate
Methylfolate is also available in small amounts in foods. 
Naturally occurring folates are found in:
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, lettuce)
Nuts (almonds, pistachios)
Animal liver (beef, lamb, pork)
Fish (tuna, trout)
Challenges in relying on methylfolate from diet alone
In an ideal world, we would be able to source all the nutrients we need from food alone. However, this is not always possible.
Humans are unable to synthesize folate in our bodies, which means we must obtain it from outside sources. As folate is a water-soluble vitamin, the body cannot store it for long. Regular intake is essential to keep levels ‘topped up’.
Folate can be obtained from diet and/or supplements. However, researchers have noted that it is very difficult for most people to get enough folate from dietary sources. Folates in food have a low and incomplete bioavailability. Folate is typically present in low amounts in food, especially in comparison to supplements.
In addition, folates in food are highly unstable, and can be degraded by heat, light, metal ions, oxygen, and acidic pH. Cooking can reduce the bioavailability of folate content by up to 90%. Other food-processing procedures can speed folate degradation, such as canning, boiling, and other thermoregulation. Canning green beans, for example, resulted in 20% folate loss due to leaching. 
Storage can also affect folate content. Wheat grains stored for eight months lost an average of 26% folate content. The milling process alone caused a 71% folate loss. 
Another significant factor on folate levels is individual folate metabolism, which can be affected by genetic predisposition.
There are at least 40 rare but potentially harmful mutations in the MTHFR gene, and nine common variants.  Polymorphisms in the gene are thought to affect over 25% of the general population.  The most critical are polymorphisms of the MTHFR gene. This can result in approximately 55-70% efficiency as compared to a normal MTHFR enzyme. The incidence of people presenting a form of polymorphism of MTHFR is about 40% worldwide.
MTHFR is responsible for breaking down folic acid to become biologically active folate. The most important genetic polymorphisms that reduce the function of the MTHFR enzyme are two common polymorphisms, C677T and A1298C. Both of these mutations have been linked to reduced folate levels. 
The role of methylfolate supplements
Few of us - if any - can afford to skimp on folate. In many cases, supporting the body’s demands for this essential nutrient may require supplementation. Studies show that the most effective folate supplement is methylfolate.
Methylfolate is the active form of folate that the body can readily use without requiring further conversion. For individuals with genetic variations that may impair their ability to convert folate into the active form, supplementing directly with methylfolate ensures optimal bioavailability and utilization. Methylfolate bypasses the
Methyl-Life® has created a range of methylfolate supplements exactly for this purpose. These products contain pure, highly bioavailable methylfolate in dosages of 2.5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, and 15mg to suit all needs.
Those seeking more comprehensive support are advised to choose the Methyl-Life® Chewable Methylated Multi. This contains methylfolate as well as B vitamins, essential minerals, antioxidants, and cognitive nutrients.
There are now hundreds of methylfolate supplements available to be purchased over-the-counter. However, quality can vary significantly.
When choosing your methylfolate supplement or comparing L-methylfolate vs. Deplin®, consider these factors:
The purity of your supplement is crucial for its effectiveness in supporting the body's folate needs. Contaminants or impurities may interfere with its absorption or utilization, potentially reducing its efficacy. It also minimizes the risk of unwanted side effects or adverse reactions.
• Dosage options
Everyone’s needs are different, which means everyone will need different amounts of methylfolate. A quality brand should offer a range of methylfolate dosage options, from low (2.5mg) to high (15mg).
• Third-party certifications
High-quality supplements undergo rigorous testing and quality control measures to ensure their safety for consumption.
Remember, it’s crucial to consult your healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before incorporating any new supplements into your routine. L-methylfolate side effects are rare, but your personal needs should be assessed in advance.
Incorporating methylfolate-rich recipes into your diet
Here’s an easy meal idea for boosting your intake of dietary folate.
This delicious stir-fry combines folate-rich vegetables, protein, and whole grains. It's a versatile and nutrient-packed meal that can be easily customized to suit personal taste or dietary restrictions.
• 1 cup of quinoa or wild rice
• 2 cups of mixed leafy greens (spinach, kale, or Swiss chard)
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced
• 1 bell pepper, sliced
• 1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
• 1 cup of broccoli florets
• 200 grams of beef liver (substitute with tuna if preferred), sliced into thin strips
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Soy sauce or tamari for flavor (use gluten-free options if needed)
1. Cook the quinoa or wild rice according to the package instructions. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat.
3. Add the sliced onion and cook until translucent.
4. Add the bell pepper, carrot, and broccoli to the skillet. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender but still crisp.
5. Push the vegetables to the side of the skillet and add the beef liver (or tuna) to the center. Cook for a few minutes until the meat is cooked through or until your personal taste.
6. Add the mixed leafy greens to the skillet and cook briefly until wilted.
7. Season the stir-fry with salt, pepper, and optional soy sauce or tamari for flavor. Toss everything together.
8. Serve the vegetable and meat stir-fry over a bed of cooked quinoa or wild rice.
Smashed Avo snack
• 2 slices of wholegrain bread
• 1 ripe avocado
• A handful of fresh spinach leaves
• Cherry tomatoes, halved
• Lemon juice
• Salt and pepper to taste
Toast the bread.
Mash the ripe avocado in a bowl and add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Spread the avocado mixture evenly on each slice of toasted bread.
Top with a handful of fresh spinach leaves.
Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes. Enjoy!
Adequate folate intake is essential at every age and stage of life. This valuable nutrient plays an enormous role in numerous bodily systems, particularly those associated with cardiovascular and cognitive function.
While a balanced diet is the most important means of supporting good health, food sources may not always be sufficient to maintain folate levels. Those who are pregnant or have metabolic issues that compromise folate assimilation are particularly at risk of low folate levels. In these cases, methylfolate supplementation is advisable. Methylfolate is the active, bioavailable form of folate that can be instantly absorbed into the bloodstream for use in the body. Numerous studies have documented the benefits of methylfolate: depression and heart conditions may be significantly improved.
Always consult with your doctor or other health professional to assess your personal needs before beginning any new supplement regime. A health professional can also help you in determining dosage and the best time of day to take methylfolate.